Sunday, 18 August 2019

Levens and the Roberts

Its been a 'sweet and sour' type of weekend for me, but mostly sweet.
I dropped my Roberts off at Paul Curran's Bike Shop in Teesside last week and it didn't take him long to give (mostly) everything the once over and text me to say the bike was ready. I drove down on Saturday to collect it. He said it had had some admiring glances as it sat in his shop. It's whats called a neo-retro, a classic bike frame that's had an update. Never seen one up here in the north.
I was on my way to Levens, a renowned 10 mile time trial. After last weekends success at Irvine, I was chilled about Levens. If I p.b'd then great; if not, no dramas.
I took the A66 across the Pennines and arriving beside the HQ, I drove the course. Not great and not a patch on Irvine, I mused; and the wind was up and gusting. There was no time to dip into my current read,  Tolstoy's 'the death of Ivan Illych', which is surprisingly good, not too long and not a million miles off Daphne Du Maurier in style. 
It was a full field of 120 riders and some reserves and I was off at 7:12pm. I warmed up on some nearby roads and some of the drivers were a bit speedy and a bit close for my liking. I had a chat with a guy from Rutherglen who was off a couple of minutes before me and he was regretting the long trip south, thinking about the wind.
The lad in front of me had all the gear and was riding for Hawick. His bike was a thing of beauty and right enough his ability must have matched his equipment as he won the event with 20m:00sec on a winnie the pooh blustery day.  Needless to say I never caught sight of him. In the meantime, I made what I could of the dualled road, then single carriageway, then dualled affair into a stiff and gusting headwind, and then cracked on back with a tailwind. I finished a minute down on Irvine and cooled down with a 5 mile ride around the sleepy South Lakes villages before returning to the car. It was a pleasure to inhale the wood smoke from the holiday homes and see the trees heavy with apples and plums in the late evening.
I drove back via Penrith where I stopped for a kebab,  but it turned out to be a Greek takeaway, so I ended up with something nearly a kebab but described as a yeeros (or gyros). Not a patch on what they serve in Dalkeith.  Paprika and chips in there, but no chilli; whats that all about?
This morning the sun was out and I took the Roberts out for its first ride. I tagged in with a group initially until my back wheel came out of the frame up a hill, then sat in later with a little group of Zeus CRT riders (a club I was in 15 years ago). We had a good chat. Apart from one of my brake levers working loose, the new old bike was a pleasure to ride and I stopped at Capheaton for a prolonged tea (but no cake) to savour the end of a long held ambition to ride one of these frames.

I have two hilly time trials left to complete before the season's end. One's a short affair locally that goes up Bilsmoor and the Gibbet early in September and the other's a return visit to Aberfoyle for the Tour de Trossachs (if I get in).  The good news is that I am back into my old trousers, which means the weight is coming down. It will have to if I am going to do myself justice at these late season events where carrying excess weight is no help whatsoever.
I'll just add that I've knocked out 15 miles running this week; However, I don't want to tempt fate, so will keep this between you and me until I am back into the running groove.     

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Return to Irvine (GTR 10mile TT)

I have yet to regale you of my most recent success. Well, it was a modest but well earned nibbling away (even if I say it myself) of my 10 mile time trial pb back in Irvine. I had entered this ages ago. I think it's the flattest course in Britain for this event. Possibly the fastest? I doubted that the weather would be as good as it had been earlier this year when I set 24:11 as my seasons best. I feared that it would not be conducive to a good time and as I crossed the A69, the weather was appalling. If it had been a teenager, I would have sent it to its bedroom with a thick ear and without any supper. The major highway between east and west was flooded in places and it was coming down in stair rods. The sky was a multi-layered ragged f&%ked up angry mix of black, grey and deep blue and it was doing the Wealdstone Raider....'dya want some? If you want some, I'll give it ya'.
Somewhere past Gretna Green it began to dry out. The sky was still a mess, but it wasn't raining so heavily. As I cut west for Ayrshire at Douglas, I watched the black sky in my mirror while I sped toward a cloudless clear blue sky. Hard to believe that by the time I stopped at McDonalds in Kilmarnock for a coffee at 5pm, it was 22 degrees and they were all in T shirts.  Could it last, I wondered as I peeled the little white sticker off the cup and stuck it to my dashboard with the rest of them.
I signed on in Eglington Park at 5:30pm, an hour before my start time. I warmed up by riding the 2 miles into Irvine and then back out on the Kilwinning Road a couple of times. I had my new skinsuit on and had wrestled with the velotoze things for my feet. They're on their last legs and will be slung this weekend. I was number 40. Usually those that wear the 'zero' numbers (10,20 etc) are the fastest, but I wasnt fooling anyone. I simply didnt have the disc wheels and sleek black racing steeds that most others had. 
I knew that I had to go hard from the start and, as I started, I assumed the aero position within a couple of seconds and buried myself along the carriageway. There was a 12 mph side-tailwind and as I hammered down the slow lane I recalled looking at my garmin last time where I had been surprised to see 27mph. Today it said 29mph. I caught sight of my minute man ahead but he was going well and, at the turn, I was at 11m:50s or thereabouts. More speed required, Scottie. I cracked on as the sweat began to drip drip off my nose. Its 100% effort eyeballs out on a flat course. I was generating 300 watts which is easily double what I might do on a training ride around the lanes. I needed to go faster. More, More. I tried to remember to try and maintain an aero position. Glancing at the garmin it said 25mph, then later 24mph and I was flailing as I gobbled up the miles to the finish. The final kilometre is a very gentle decline and I mustered every last atom of energy that I could as I came past the line in 23m:57s. Pheewww, that was tight, but 'sub 24' on 'normal' wheels was the seasons objective.  I know with a small mortgage and some crowd-funding over the winter I can raise enough dosh for some carbon wheels next year.  I was elated with the time and warmed down by riding into Irvine. It still didn't look any better in the late evening sun.
I drove back home via Edinburgh and as I travelled along the M8 it got blacker and blacker with flashes of lightning illuminating the sky every so often. It was torrential along the bypass and while my heart said kebab, my brain said fish supper in Dalkeith, so it was a fish supper and a salt n sauce wet drive home. I think I was lucky.
Oh, and by the way...breaking news.....a new pair of trainers and 12 miles of running this week. Its  looking like it could be a decent Autumn.  

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Two wheel adventure

I've managed virtually no running miles this week, but all is not lost. I have logged over 150 miles on the bike and its been a real pleasure that a quiet period at work has coincided with the hot weather last week. True, we have had our share in recent days (and nights) of a thunder storm or two but they kinda go hand in hand - hot weather and thunder. One night a huge clap came out of nowhere and I nearly hit the ceiling. The bikes are mostly in a state of disrepair which is not satisfactory. I must get my finger out and sell or sling the various bits n bobs that are lying around and that are surplus to requirements. Some new gear is also required.
My Chas Roberts is assembled after 18 months, but is yet to hit the road and I need to get it fine tuned. I have been down the estate road on it and the position is bang on, which is great. The gears need a little tinkering and it could do with a once over by someone who knows what to do with a spanner!
My recent lurgy troubles appear to have dissipated and I feel now that I can dispense with the white gloves and dust mask...some of the neighbours are wondering if I've gone a bit gaga.
Next weeks weather looks wet, but there could be a slot tomorrow afternoon and again on Tuesday morning, so I will ensure I make myself available for some quality bike time. The Tour has been great this year and I am still keen to get out to the Alps again and do some big hills.  In the meantime I will have to make do with the Northumbrian countryside. Could do a lot worse. If I manage to pull on a pair of trainers, I'll let you know. In the meantime life's a two wheel adventure.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

A fat lads Sunderland 5k

The lurgy has been hanging on since my holiday. My achilles has also been playing up, but my mantra these days is ‘do what you can’. I had pre-entered the Sunderland 5k in mid June when I was ‘on the up’. However, I haven’t shifted the weight and since my cold, not managed the miles. The evening race on the Thursday night looked uninviting, but the £12 or whatever had been spent, so I was committed.  I had also entered a local 10m time trial at Cramlington on the Wednesday, the night before Sunderland. I knew I was pushing my luck. 

It took me 20 minutes to track down the Race HQ near Cramlington. Armed with my new skinsuit I signed up and took my number to the toilets to pin on. This is no easy feat given the tightness of the garment and its stretchiness. I made some sort of job of it, but as my torso cannot yet manage a 360 degree revolution, I accepted defeat and asked for assistance from a fellow rider as I made my way out of the gents.

I really wasn’t in the mood for 25 minutes of grief, but it could only be better than the debacle that was Newton Mearns (see earlier blog). I was off 2nd last and it was well after 8pm when I galloped downhill from the start to commence the 2 laps of the circuit. I had no illusions that I was in good shape; However, crossing the line in 24:50min I was pretty happy with the result, my second fastest time of the year.  I warmed down with another couple of miles and made my way home to a shower and a bottle of beer. The skinsuit was fine and in the search for a faster time, I find myself browsing the web for carbon wheels. Crazy prices for what….a handful of seconds?

I felt fine the next day and I drove Marg, Speedy joe and Ant to Sunderland. We were joined by the loz and the dark horse (linds), so all 3 daughters were running. Good to see them all getting stuck in. The Sunderland 5k starts with a ski-slope hill and it’s a 400m giveaway. 
However, it was super-muggy and hot and after 1k I realised I was going to struggle. I saw the back of many runners who, normally I would have expected to beat, but not this evening. It was a PW of 21:02 and I have rarely enjoyed a race less.  None of the others did well and this we put down to the remnants of the cold bug and the recent excesses of our continental trip. While Speedy joe still hasn’t found her mojo, loz appears to have put the bug to the sword with her win the following weekend at the Hamsterley trail half marathon. I totted up 12 miles running over the week but the achilles is easing off, thankfully. I have managed 100 on the bike, however in readiness for the two short time trial events that I have entered in August.  If I get in, it’s a trip back to Irvine and then one to Wigan. To what lengths will I go to deliver a PB on the bike? Quite a way, apparently.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Chamonix Furnace

I have been in dire straits in the last 10 days. Recently my running was on the up and I had clocked 30 running miles in the week mid-June. What I didn’t know on the Sunday long run was that my system was already incubating a virus. A virial cold with some added flu for the craic. By Monday morning my throat was razors and my head was pounding. Take it from me, by Saturday I knew it was the cold from hell. I was talked into going on Holiday on the following Wednesday and kept myself to myself on the plane to Geneva. Once we arrived in Chamonix, I took to my bed, later spending much of the next two days sunbathing under a large open window in the apartment. The flat looked directly onto the main square. There was a row of pizza restaurants underneath us and the buzz of continental late night dining and the clashing of plates and cutlery took a little getting used to. As my condition improved, I took to hanging out the window, people watching. So many people on the move.

There was a running festival on. Fifty nationalities. Seven events including two over the night-time. All of my flat sharers had variously entered the KMV (a vertical 3km up to one of the cable car stations), the Mont Blanc half marathon and the 10k. What with my various ailments, I hadn’t entered any events, and looking out over the balcony through the incredible heat, I felt no pressure and a great deal of relief. We were opposite the post office which had a digital thingy on the wall which made announcements and also signalled the time and temperature every minute. It read 40 degrees on the Friday afternoon. It was like a furnace. Everyone else had had the lurgy to some degree and all were coughing and feeling out of sorts. 

The first event was a 90k run and the runners had set off at 6am. By 3pm they started to re-appear in dribs and drabs through the town and their appearance was marked by sporadic outburst of whooping and cheering by the pizza punters.  

The start of the KMV was from the square behind our block. It was a time trial with runners setting off at 20 second intervals. The paths were impossibly steep and narrow in places. We could hear the clapping and the microphone from the flat…the windows were all wide open to try and keep us cool. We walked past the square and as the dark destroyer (loz) set off and we clapped her on her way, a daft mission to altitude and glory. It took her an hour. She was followed shortly afterwards by Nicola Duncan who I recognised and I told her to work harder. She shouted that she’d done 170 miles the previous week. 

We were kept awake for most of the night by the clapping and the overly energised chap on the microphone. By Saturday morning we were all a heavily sleep deprived. There was an air of grumpiness in the air. Despite this, Speedy Joe was up for the half marathon and we clapped her off from the Park at 6am after a 1 mile walk from the flat. She was carrying enough water to refill Kielder.  The organisers had insisted on this and had initially rejected her jaunty suggestion that a small plastic bottle would suffice.I made my way to the finish up at the PlanPlaz. Ant who had decided not to take part in the ‘Half’ joined me after 15 minutes and the crowd swelled over the next half an hour. The first runner came in around 2:30hrs. The field soon followed and became increasingly ragged, with Cat arriving in 24th place in a time of a 3:30hrs. Tough day out.    

The 10k was scheduled for 1pm. It also left from the Park. We wandered back to the Park just after lunch and sympathised with Marg and Loz for their impending furnace experience. If anything, it felt hotter than PlanPraz.  After the start, we wandered to the 9k mark and waited for the two to make an appearance. It took an age for the first runners to come through and both loz and marg were completely fried, like the rest of the field as they passed. I have never been so thankful to have passed on this dubious festival experience.

We ate out in the evening in the restaurant next door and it was a disappointing affair. We were hoping for a quiet night, but the muppet around the corner still had his microphone on and was whooping the thinning crowd to an inch of its life. I was generating very negative thoughts as I lay in bed in the evening heat.   It was the novices race and the disturbance extended well into the early hours. Sometime early on Monday morning the microphone torture trailed off and the weather broke with a spectacular electrical storm. 

My condition improved and the high point of the holiday was a walk up to PlanPraz followed by a run back down through the woods with Speedy joe. It was 40 minutes of gravity assisted technical descent and an experience that salvaged my holiday.  

Sunday, 9 June 2019

St Christophers TT, Newton Mearns

I've managed a couple of Parkruns in the last month.That's progress. Parkruns are the litmus paper for my running form (and also the climate) at the mo.
There was a toasty humid 5k Parkrun in late May. I finished in 20:22. Not great; not bad. Yesterday, again at Blyth, I ran 21:29 in an adversarial northernly and a grim, driving, salty rainy deluge. True, one half was running with a huge tailwind, but running into rain like that reminded me of the Ben Nevis Hill race in 2009. That was awful. A proper test of application. It found me wanting...and not wanting more. 
What I really want to report in this blog is my mental 6 hour round trip to take part in a time trial in Newton Mearns on Wednesday to ride 10 miles on a course bathed in rough potholed tarmac, long challenging drags and piss poor weather. What was I thinking of? As a (delayed) reaction, I was booked in for another 10 mile test today near Thirsk, but I've come over all Mike and Bernie Winters and forfeited my £10 entry fee and cancelled. That said, Ive saved a 3 hour drive and £40 in fuel by not travelling. My heart wasn't in it. I've simply not being doing the miles. Not been doing the time.

Newton Mearns is a place I lived beside but never visited back in the day around the time when Radio Clyde were established, when Runrig were formed and when we were relative newbies in the EU. My spatial geography of Glasgow is very poor in spite of my two years as a young teenager living there.
I arrived at the Fairweather hall in good time. The sky had been looking ragged and angry for an hour or two and as I unpacked the bike I chatted on with a fellow rider, Lorna Sloan of the Fullerton Club, who was off two before me. She looked older and I wondered if I might catch her. I was glad for once to don my velotoze shoe covers; at least when it poured my feet would remain dry. I was off no. 32.
I rode the two miles in the light drizzle to the start and then spent 10 minutes doing a couple of efforts to try and get my heart rate up. It was unconvincing. Lorna appeared at the crest of the hill and gestured that she had punctured. No ride for her tonight. A portly looking bloke was making his way back from the startline as the rain began to come in. Another puncture victim. The rain was washing fresh gravel onto the road. Small streams appeared in places cutting across the tarmac. The potholes were filling up nicely.
I took off my training top and was counted down. It took around 3 miles before I caught sight of the chap in front, my minuteman, Alex McPhee of Dooleys. The occasional car or bus came past spraying us lightly as the rain continued. I thought I was catching the bloke McPhee, but it was a slow business.
I maintained my focus on the leg back but clocking 15 minutes for the outward leg, I knew the overall time would be slower than a snail on dope. Sure enough, a late 26 minutes was the result and as I collected my wet trackie top I reflected that at least I'd got a ride. I finished toward the top of the bottom of the field again 28th out of 40 odd who finished. I commiserated by stopping for a small fish supper from Hooks fish bar somewhere along a busy road and got home around 12:15am after negotiating a series of night time road closures.
On the positive side, I've entered July's Sunderland 5k which is always fast due to the first 800m being downhill and today I managed a slow and steady 12 miles in the sun taking my weekly mileage up to 24 miles.Happy with that, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Smooth(ie) Operator

There were no after effects after a tentative 2 mile outing yesterday and I added 4 miles today at noon in the warm sun. It was all good. It's the first bit of running I've done for 10 days and is a welcome alternative to the bike. Just round the block, you understand. Somedays, it's a bit of a bind to clack around the house in my shoes and plates rounding up my gear and various accessories.  I like the idea of alternating between running and cycling.
Anyway, summers here at last. Anybody else wondering where all our swallows have gone...? 
Galvanised by my new fad, a morning smoothie, I made my cycling time trial debut last weekend on the Sedgefield course in Durham. The course is an out and back dual carriageway affair. I have driven past it for years on my way to and from Teesside and it has never struck me as being that flat....and it was no different on a bike. In a modest field, I was Number 7 and was off just after 2pm. Number 4 was a woman riding for Swift.  Number 5 was a big bloke with all the kit riding for the police cycling club. However, at the start he got into all sorts of dramas as his chain came off 30 seconds before the off and he eventually pulled away half a minute late. This must have disturbed Number 6 who had barely time to get himself settled before he was dispatched. I watched this unfold in front of me, unruffled.
I was keen to do a sub-26. The conditions were reasonable but there seemed a wind creeping around. I couldnt quite establish in my warm-up what direction it was blowing. Regardless, I was counted down and was sent on my way and shortly after getting onto the dual carriageway I saw Number 4 pulling off the course. She looked like she'd had a mechanical.
Within 3 miles I caught Number 5. I then swallowed up Number 6. Passing riders ahead of you is always good for morale. However, having completed 5 races this year, I am under no illusions about my own ability - you just pass the slower riders and crack on. After 8 miles I heard the whirr of a disc wheel and number 8 came past. I was steaming up again in my own shades, but the drip-drip-drip of sweat from my cap never materialised. Was I not trying hard enough?
The return leg of the race involved a slow uphill drag and that, combined with a cool headwind and heavy sky made it a proper battle in the last 2 miles. Remarking to myself on a little taste of sick in the final mile, I tried in vain to stay in touch with Number 8 and finished in 25:22.
In a field of 47 and with 40 odd faster riders in front, I left before the presentation. I did have time for a chat with Number 4. She used to run 35 minute 10k's. I also took advantage of the tea and cake facilities at Cedarfield Hall, the race HQ.
I havent seen the results yet.
On my return Aunt Aggie demanded all the details and after digesting the data, has made it clear in no uncertain terms that I need to get hold of a disc wheel and skinsuit so that I can creep up on riders and whirr whirr them into submission. Maybe she's right.  Maybe she's nuts.
June sees me at Thirsk and Newton Mearns, continuing my quest to shave seconds off a two wheeled crusade that means nothing much to anyone in particular.  The good news is that I have pushed the smoothie boundaries from one to two a day and I'm now fully enjoying the fruits of my labours (get it...fruits, smoothies, yeh...maybe I'll just get my coat).